Friday Reads: Crossroads in the Dark III

Cover of Crossroads in the Dark 3Welcome back for another Friday Reads. This edition will be rather different as I can’t truly say, just yet, if Crossroads in the Dark III will have a lasting impact on me. However, what I can say, is that this book already has significant meaning.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

This particular volume of the Crossroads in the Dark (CRITD) anthology series produced by my publisher, Burning Willow Press, is for charity, with 26 authors donating stories (see the list below). The book has been dedicated to Tracey (T.F.) Poist, who suffers from EDS (if you, like many others, don’t know what that is, check out the Ehlers-Danlos Society website), with all proceeds being donated to EDS research in the hopes that better treatments, and hopefully a cure, can be found.

I reached out to Tracey about her experience with EDS, and she had the following to say:

It began with fatigue. I was going to be married soon, so I chalked it up to stress. Then I thought I must’ve contracted mononucleosis. I had tests done for Lyme disease. By every account, I was perfectly fine.

Then I twisted a bit as I yawned and stretched. Instant agony. After a few months of dealing with medical bureaucracy, I had an MRI performed. It showed four herniated discs and two others shredded. Spinal stenosis. Arthritis. All without any cause.

Ordinarily, that’s where this story would end. I’d complain about more and more, but nothing would ever come of it. That’s how it remains for most of the undiagnosed zebras out there. But I got lucky. My doctor had a personal interest in genetics and sent me for genetic testing. Bingo! Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Classical Type, with Marfanoid Features.

Doctors in medical school are taught to look for the most obvious causes first. To hear hoofbeats and think of horses, not zebras. But we medical zebras exist. And we need help.

Ehlers Danlos affects every part of my life. My skin stretches and tears. My heart can’t quite keep up with what I’d like to do. My muscles can’t, either. My autonomic nervous system is heavily impacted. In fact, I live in a daily state of fight-or-flight. It exhausts me physically and mentally.

There are several co-morbidities frequently found with Ehlers Danlos. I live with nearly a dozen. And I’m lucky. It can get so much worse. I lose a zebra friend to sudden death every month. Aortic dissection. Aneurysm. Suicide.

Other than the weight I’ve gained and the stretch marks under my clothes, I don’t look any different than I did ten years ago. I don’t look like a person who has to use her wheelchair, who depends on medications to fight Dysautonomia and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia. I don’t look like I have problems digesting food. You can’t see my insomnia or my constant fatigue.

EDS is an almost entirely invisible illness. It is an umbrella under which you may find joint dislocations, heart problems, digestive issues, depression and anxiety, easy bruising and scarring, and so much more.

Before I woke up and yawned and stretched, I took things for granted. Running. Dancing. Dressing myself. Showering. Walking. Living without pain.

Ehlers Danlos is underdiagnosed and misunderstood. I encourage you to learn about the illness so you don’t take life for granted the way I did, but especially so you might be able to connect the dots for someone currently suffering without answers.

There is no cure, and we can only treat separate issues as they arise, but we are resilient. Warriors. And we thank you for your help. May we find a cure for our children.

CRITD III

If you like horror, even a little bit, go buy yourself a copy of it. It’s well worth the money. I don’t even really like horror, and I give it 5 stars (no, really, you can read my review). It’s horrible in all the right ways, and wonderfully demented. Check out all of the fantastic authors who donated their stories to the anthology.

Stories

Are you a horror fan? Have you read any of the CRITD books? Will you buy CRITD III? Have you ever heard of EDS? Leave me a comment below. Or leave a message for Tracey to help make her day a bit better.

I hope you have a great weekend at the Crossroads.

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Friday Reads Schedule Change

Scar assumes the throneHello my Friday Reads readers! I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my Friday Reads schedule is changing.

After 6 weeks of Friday Reads, I’ve come to the realization that a weekly series isn’t sustainable for the long term. So, it is with a heavy heart that I must curtail Friday Reads. *Giggle* Drop me a comment if you’re a Lion King fan.

Seriously, though, I am sorry to cut back on the frequency of my Friday Reads series. However, while I’ve certainly read a ton of books, they haven’t all been important or impactful. I’m trying to keep my Friday Reads important to me. I want to share books with you that I’ve loved enough to read multiple times (at least 3+ times).

Of course, doing so means that I drastically cut down on the number of books I have to write about. So spacing out the posts will let me keep this series going longer. Friday Reads will now be a monthly series, occurring on the first Friday of each month.

What do you think of the new schedule? Are you ok with it? Would you rather I go back to a weekly schedule and just stop the serious when I run out of books? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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Friday Reads #6: Harry Potter

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Pride and Prejudice.

It only seems right to discuss what Harry Potter means to me on September 1, 19 years later. I’m sure I’ll be writing more posts at some later date, discussing what the individual books mean to me, but for the moment I’ll focus on the series as a whole. And I’ll attempt to be brief, as I could probably talk about Harry Potter forever.

The series apparated into my life when I was in the hospital in 7th grade. My mother bought me a paperback box set of the first three books as something to keep me busy. If I recall correctly, I finished them in two days.

Goblet of FireThen came the wait. You know, the horrible wait between books. I re-read the first three as I waited for the fourth book. When the publishers announced its release, I begged my mom to preorder it for me. She said no, not seeing the reasoning behind doing so, so I badgered her into going to a midnight release. I was determined to read it as soon as possible. She stood in line with me and all of the other kids and parents, desperately waiting for Barnes and Noble to let us buy it. Granted, I’m sure her eagerness had a different cause than mine.

I read Goblet of Fire by streetlight as we drove home, with my mom badgering me about how bad it was for my eyesight. I stayed up until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore to read as much of it that night as I could. First thing in the morning, I went back to reading.

And when I was done, I had to wait again. I re-read the series during the wait. See a pattern here? I read them all so many times that Goblet of Fire fell apart. Do you remember the scandal with the bad batch of glue? Everyone’s book 4 fell apart. But at least large books are easier to carry in pieces.

Order of the PhoenixThen came Order of the Phoenix. My mom had learned her lesson. She preordered it for me; I made sure we picked it up the afternoon it came out. It disappointed me, though. Order of the Phoenix was, and still is, my least favorite of the books. I can’t put a precise reason to it, but it didn’t speak to me in the way so many of the others did. Perhaps because Sirius dies. Maybe it’s just that bitch Umbridge. Or maybe it’s because I’d started to grow up, and had a new appreciation for what was going on in the books.

Regardless, I read it each time I re-read the series waiting for book 6. My mom also bought me a new copy of Goblet of Fire during the wait, as my original copy (that I still have) had degraded into about 8 pieces.

Half Blood PrinceWith Half Blood Prince, my mom bought me a special edition. It came in a box and had some full page illustrations. I devoured that book, as I had the others. It’s a good thing, too, because I avoided the spoiler scandal about Dumbledore dying. I already knew. I also knew that the last book was going to be hell. Each book got progressively darker, and I doubted the trend was going to stop.

Once again I re-read the series while I waited for the last book. I even read the side books – Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Deathly HallowsAnd then came Deathly Hallows. The book that broke millions of hearts. I’d preordered it on Amazon, as had half of the apartment complex where I lived during college. I watched the DHL delivery people crisscross the paths in front of my apartment, pushing countless dollies laden with identically sized boxes. I was desperate to have my copy, and thinking I’d made a huge mistake by not going to a midnight release, or a bookstore first thing in the morning.

But finally, finally, there was a knock on the door, and my copy was delivered. I spared a brief moment of pity for my roommate who was also waiting for her copy before tearing open the box and plopping down to read. A reading marathon ensued. 10.5 hours straight. I didn’t stop reading to use the bathroom or to heat up food. I’d learned to multitask while reading as a young child, and it certainly came in handy that day. I laughed, cried, raged. I was bereft.

It was over. No more books. I wouldn’t ever go back to Hogwarts again. Of course, even then, us Potterheads had no idea what all we’d be blessed with over the next ten years. If I’d known there would be theme parks, studio tours, another whole movie series, etc. I might not have been so sad. But at the time it was like I’d finally finished childhood, and I didn’t want to let go.

Of course, over the years I’ve reread the books, watched all the movies, visited one of the theme parks (the one in Hollywood), been to the studio tour (and I’m going again in December), cosplayed, and made some of the treats from the universe (hot butterbeer is REALLY good). I have my own wand and a Marauder’s Map. I even read The Cursed Child (if you haven’t read it, don’t. Really. It’s not the 8th book, it’s a travesty.).

But today, 19 years later, it’s all ending again. And many of those same feelings I experienced ten years ago are back, accompanied by a sense of sadness that this time, this time it really is over. We’re here. We’re at the end of the series. It’s done.

But then this morning I saw a tweet from Ms. Rowling.

We went to Hogwarts. And that means we can go back again, whenever we want. So if you haven’t read the series, what better time to start then on the day it ends? If you have read it, go back to Hogwarts with the next generation, and relive the joy, wonder, tumult, sadness, bravery, and magic.

What does Harry Potter mean to you? Have you read all the books? Watched all the movies? Done all the things? What house are you in? Leave me a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #5: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Indian Captive.

Pride and PrejudiceJaneites are nothing new. Worldwide, there are innumerable fans of Jane Austen and her works. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a true Janeite. I haven’t been to bath; don’t know everything about Jane Austen’s life; and haven’t even read all of her works — I know, bad author. But I have read a couple, including Pride and Prejudice, and I’m certainly a fan of them.

I discovered Pride and Prejudice fairly late, in my opinion. Austen wasn’t required reading at my schools, and no one I knew was a Janeite, so I kind of always assumed her books were just romance novels. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.

I no longer recall why I decided to read Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps I was on one of my “I need to read the classics” phases. But, I finally did so after moving to Virginia. And, what do you know, I loved it.

Pride and Prejudice 1995In the handful of years since then, I’ve only read the original book one more time. However, I’ve watched every filmed version I could get my hands on (the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version is the best), and I’ve read a metric butt-ton of “alternate versions”, “re-writes”, and “sequels” (I’ll just call them published fanfiction) ranging from fantastic to horrendous.

Clearly, Pride and Prejudice left its mark on me. But why?

The love story sucked me in. Let’s be honest. At first read, I’m sure there are many of us who would love to have a relationship like the one Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam have at the end of the book. Of course, on further contemplation, it completely falls apart, because us modern women would not do well with the expectations of females in the Regency era. But why consider things like facts in our fantasies?

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth BennetThen there’s the lovely, feisty, Elizabeth Bennet who defies convention to forge her own path and follow her heart. She’s learned, self-confident, and possessed of an inner beauty that shines forth so as to make her outwardly beautiful as well. She’s that girl you either love or loathe, and I love her.

And, of course, you have Jane’s — wow, that’s weird to write, better call her Miss Austen — writing style. Many people have explained it far better than I ever could, but, suffice to say, it’s amazing.

Since reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I’ve learned more about Miss Austen’s writing and life. It’s what comes from reading published fanfiction and various articles and books about her. I’ve learned about the “secret messages” hidden in her writing, and I hope to learn more when I get to Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

It’s all given me a better appreciation for Miss Austen’s works. They’ve become that much more powerful. And, Pride and Prejudice has become that much better. It’s not ‘just a romance novel’. It’s so very much more.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? What about the “published fanfiction”? Have you watched any of the video versions of it? Can you quote the opening line of the novel? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #4: Indian Captive

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

As a child, my mom preferred to buy me award winning books. I suppose it was so she could be certain I was reading decent, and appropriate, material. Newbery Honor book, Indian Captive, by Lois Lenski was one of them.

Paperback cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

If I had to guess, I’d say I read it somewhere around 15-20 times. Surprisingly, the simple paperback survived all those reads and was still in fairly decent shape when it got left behind upon my move to Virginia. I wish I’d brought it with me, as it got lost when my parents moved to a new house.

For a while after that, I contemplated buying a new physical version (and I still might if I can find a one of the earlier hardback editions), but I never got around to it. Luckily, to my everlasting joy, it was released as an ebook.

eBook cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I quite happily purchased it from Barnes and Noble and have read it another 4 or 5 times since. So what keeps drawing me to a children’s book?

First and foremost, it is, quite simply, a fabulously written story. Molly is a very strong female character, but with a vulnerability that makes her believable and relatable. She has moments of intense strength, and moments where she breaks down almost completely.

As a child with major health issues, my life often followed that pattern. I’d be great one day, then back in the hospital for who knows how long the next. But if Molly, who was suffering so much greater things than I was, could keep going, then so could I. She survived, and thrived, and I would too.

Perhaps it’s silly that I found such inspiration in a story so completely different than my own, but I didn’t really think of that. I focused on the fact that Indian Captive was based on a true story. Someone had really gone through what I was reading, and had come out a stronger person because of it.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

In addition to the fabulous writing, the illustrations are just beautiful. There is a softness to the style that I loved then, and still love now. I still take the time to look at each image as I come to it. I just wish the pictures were bigger in ebooks.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate as an adult is that Lois Lenski made the Seneca characters likable and relatable as well. It would have been so easy for her to portray them all as monsters, but Molly’s friends and adoptive family were kind, understanding, and complex. You can’t help but like Little Turtle/Turkey Feather, Grandfather Shagbark, Shining Star, Earth Woman, Beaver Girl, and Molly/Corn Tassel’s other friends. There are, of course, less likeable characters, but, that’s true of life in general.

The way Lois Lenski wrote made me want to learn new languages, experience other cultures, and make new friends. I understood that it was horrible how Molly ended up as Corn Tassel, but once she was adopted into her Seneca family, her experiences, her life lessons, were beautiful. She learned so much, she understood that the average Seneca person was not very different from the average white settler, and that was a very important lesson that has stuck with me over the years.

Have you ever read Indian Captive or a book like it? Is there a book that taught you a lesson that has stuck with you through the years? Do you still read children’s books? Leave a comment and let me know. Come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #3: The Creation of Anne Boleyn

Cover of The Creation of Anne BoleynIt’s Friday, which means it’s time for another installment of my Friday Reads series; setting you up for a great weekend of reading. This week’s book is The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo.

I’ve been interested in Tudor England since I discovered The Royal Diaries series as a kid. Since then, I’ve certainly read more Tudor literature (fiction and non) than your average person. Expect to see more Tudor books in future Friday Reads installments.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn still taught me quite a bit. Or perhaps I should say that it made me reevaluate existing knowledge and look at it in a new way. My biggest takeaway from the book was that we don’t have an unbiased, contemporary “portrait” of Anne as a person.

You have either the slanderous views of those who were staunchly against “the Great Whore”, the overly flattering views of those who supported Anne during her rise and when her daughter was queen, or attempts — many years after her death — to put together her story from vaguely remembered anecdotes passed down from parent to child. None of them have much hope of giving us a glimpse into the real Anne Boleyn.

Now, logically, this is something I already knew. Of course the people who liked and disliked Anne would give skewed opinions, but I never really gave much thought to how that shaped the lasting image of Anne herself. I also never really considered how more recent history, culture, and expectations have shaped “Anne Boleyn”.

Susan Bordo has thought about all of this, and she presents her findings and her thoughts in an interesting and entertaining way. The Creation of Anne Boleyn made me think, really think, about just how little we truly know about historical figures. And I wonder just how much of what we think we know is just the persona that people have built around famous and infamous people over the years, decades, and centuries.

Have you read The Creation of Anne Boleyn? Did you like it? What about Tudor history in general?

Check out last week’s Friday Reads, Love You Forever, and come back next week for another awesome book.

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Friday Reads #2: Love You Forever

It’s Friday again! Time for Friday Reads.

Cover of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch is one of the first books I remember my mom reading to me as a child. She read it to me so many times, that at one point I had it memorized and would repeat it with her. I can still remember the poem:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.

I think part of the reason that particular piece stuck with me is that my mother often shared a similar sentiment with me, just as her mother had shared it with her. “You could be 50 and you’d still be my baby.” As a child, that was just about the worst thing I could hear (I wasn’t a baby). Now, I’d give so much to hear her call me her baby again. 

You could be 50 and you'd still be my baby

As I grew up, my mom stopped reading to me, as you’d expect, and I basically forgot all about Love You Forever. I don’t even remember, at this point, what brought it back to my attention. I do remember looking it up online and being hit by a wave of nostalgia simply by looking at the cover.

I bought a Kindle edition just so I could read it again. It’s a good thing I didn’t go to a bookstore, because I got hit in the feels HARD. I went through several tissues.

It starts out so sweet, you can’t help but smile. But then it comes around full circle, and it hits home in a way you wouldn’t expect for a children’s book. I’m surprised my mom was able to read it to me so easily. If I had a child and was reading it to him or her, I’d be bawling. Poor thing would probably be traumatized.

I’d highly recommend reading this to your kid(s), though. It’s an amazing book that stands the test of time. Just make sure to read it by yourself, first, to make sure you can make it through without turning on the waterworks.

Illustration from Love You ForeverI’m not ashamed to say I still enjoy it. The poem still pops to mind occasionally. I even still hear it in my mom’s voice. After all, as long as I’m living my Mommy she’ll be.

Have you ever heard of Love You Forever? Did one, or both, of your parents read it to you as a kid? Or have you read it to your kid(s)? Leave a comment below and let me know, and share this with your friends to clue them in to Love You Forever.

Check out last week’s Friday Reads, Little Women, and come back next week for another awesome book.

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Friday Reads #1: Little Women

For the foreseeable future, Fridays here will be the Friday Reads series (to go with the hashtag). What better way to start the weekend than the suggestion of a good book? I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of reviews on the different books I’ll discuss, so I’m not going to review them. Instead I’m going to share what they mean to me. I’m starting the series with the book that I think sealed my fate as a lifelong reader: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

* ~ . ~ *

My mom bought me several versions of Little Women as I grew up. I remember owning five different versions, three of which were quite literally read to death. And I’m looking for a sixth, fancy, version to start my “favorite books” bookshelf. Leave a comment if you’d like to hear more about that.

Great Illustrated Classics, Little WomenAnyway, I remember the first version I received when I was maybe 6. It was part of the Great Illustrated Classics series. Hardcover, illustrated, and abridged with large type. I thought the illustrations were so pretty. They were black line, like a coloring book, and I so wanted to color them all in, but I couldn’t bring myself to “deface” a book like that, even then.

Some time later, when my first version was looking a bit worse for wear from reading it so much, I received an unabridged paperback version. I can remember the bright yellow back cover, even now, although the front cover details are lost to me. It was illustrated as well, in a more elegant style. I specifically remember there being a fabulous stylized illustration of Meg in her borrowed ball gown with Laurie staring on disapprovingly. It was captioned with: “Don’t you like me so?” asked Meg. “No, I don’t,” came the blunt reply. 

This second version was roughly the same physical size as my first version, although perhaps a bit thicker. It might have even been a little smaller along the height and width. I didn’t understand why. Shouldn’t it be much bigger if it was unabridged? Then I opened it. The text was tiny! It didn’t matter, though. I think I finished reading it in a couple days. And I didn’t stop. Over the next few years, I read it so many times it fell apart.

It was while I owned this second version that my mom took me to see the play version. It’s the first play I remember seeing. Generally when we went to the theater it was for some type of dance (ballet, river dance, etc) or some other type of performance altogether, like STOMP! It was simple, the only set changes were during intermission, and our seats weren’t the best in the world, but I remember being rather young, and, seeing as I don’t have many other memories of that time period, it clearly meant a lot.

I bought myself my third version of the book. An inexpensive paperback, as I fully expected to read it to death as well. But before I could, eBooks became a thing. So I bought myself an eBook version. And I’ve read it a few times as well. Thankfully, the digital version won’t fall apart.

In the final days of my mom’s battle against cancer, she was somewhat coherent, but couldn’t really hold a conversation. I assume it must have been horrible for her to be stuck with no form of entertainment. Out of a loss of what to do, I decided to read to her, as she had done for me so often as a child. I chose Little Women.

It wasn’t her favorite book. I honestly don’t know what her favorite book was. But it was comforting, and I hoped it would remind her of good times we’d shared. Of all the times we’d watched the different movie versions together. It may not have been the best decision, though, as I find the book rather difficult to read now. I haven’t read it since she died in 2013. It’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without reading it.

But hopefully soon I’ll find the strength to read it again and remember all the wonderful memories associated with it. Regardless, it’s a very important book to me. So much so that I even reference it in my own upcoming book The Most Special Chosen.

Click to check out the Little Women Graphic Novel ProjectI also recently discovered a Little Women graphic novel project that has some amazing artwork. I hope the artist continues it, as currently, only the first 7 chapters have been done. Go take a look and see what you think of it.

Have you ever read Little Women? Have you watched any of the movie versions? Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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